Planet Of The Apes (1974)

POA 1No, this was not a show about the possibilities of ANC rule in South Africa. This had much lower crime stats and more solid infrastructure. Two astronauts end up on earth in the future and befriend a chimpanzee. One of the astronauts is the dark haired, wise-cracking guy, the other one a serious, considerate, blonde guy. Starsky & Hutch in other words. This means that the feeling of doom which the films had is lightened here. (The dude who plays Burke really is a burk with his irritating personality and corny dialogue – I wanted the Apes to shoot the slimy creep but, alas, they never did… not all child hood dreams come true.)

The Apes saga spawned this short-lived TV series as the movies ran out of steam (following the 5th film in ’73): this follows 2 astronauts (Harper and Naughton – a 3rd man died on impact) whose spaceship crashes on Earth of the future (a little over a thousand years from now, in year 3085): humans in this time period are 2nd-class citizens, ruled by apes (Orangutans, Gorillas, and Chimps). There is little or no technology, with housing courtesy of the Flintstones. The 2 visitors are on the run with new friend chimp Galen (McDowall) from the forces of orangutan politico Zaius (Colman) and General Urko (Lenard), a bad-tempered gorilla. He has all the social graces of Mike Tyson and is better looking.

Running around a wilderness area, their travails took on a ‘running around in circles’ tempo, since they never strayed far from their main nemesis. Much of the action involved the astronauts being chased by gorillas on horseback or fighting them with judo and karate moves. The heroes’ ultimate fates were never revealed. The action took place in the Bay area of California (one episode, for example, was shot in the ruins of Oakland – pretty good set design for a TV series). The logistics of the series makes sense in so far as it logically occurs about 900 years before the events of the first 2 Apes films: humans here have not yet devolved to unspeaking brutes, being merely a docile but still intelligent servant class.

POA (“We’ll call it, wait for it… Zimbabwe. That’ll show em! What are you gonna call yours?” Robert Mugabe and Jacob Zuma plot how to outwit those blue-eyed, evil, white devils.)

However, this does contradict the events of the final 3 films, which does point to those as the creation of an alternate timeline: most familiar with the saga point out the dog in the very 1st episode (dogs were wiped out between the 3rd and 4th films); also, the astronauts find a book showing an advanced New York City from year 2503, which means, in this version of the saga, Apes took over around the 27th or 28th century whereas, in the 5th film, mankind had fallen by our time (early 21st century). Big difference.

There’s also a brief mention, in the first episode, of other astronauts who’d bedeviled Zaius 10 years earlier, but we never learn anything about them, except that they’d been killed. The stories themselves were often parables, commenting on certain social strictures from our own history, involving a persecution of a lower class; one episode had allusions to the Ku Klux Klan activities of a century past, with apes in hoods. A better early episode was “The Trap,” where Urko and one of the astronauts get trapped together in an old ruin by an earthquake; Urko soon learns of his true heritage and that these humans are much more resourceful than he dreamed. Indeed, the two astronauts usually showed an advanced proficiency in all areas compared to this ape culture, even in such endeavors as farming.

McDowall played his 3rd chimp character here, similar to his Cornelius and Caesar, but a little on the wild side. Mark Lenard, better known for his Sarek character in the Star Trek TV shows and movies, probably did the best work here as the violence-prone but intelligent gorilla military leader. His gruff voice is perfect in the role of a military leader. Although action packed, the screenwriters always assumed that the audience had a high degree of intelligence. Typically, this show was cancelled after only 13 episodes. Considering how cheesy it is that was a smart move. Always leave the hungry schlubs wanting more.

planet of the apes tv(Wakey wakey…as tempting as it is to shoot every episode in here while you guys cat nap, the contract says you need to be actually conscious and do some work before you get paid.)



  1. Great review, love your humour, as always!

    Liked by 2 people

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